Only Connect?: A Reader in the World

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Author Beacon Press (MA) $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7220-2
A fixture in the New York literary world, novelist and essayist Schwartz (Ruined by Reading; In the Family Way) offers up 15 personal essays that explore everything from the sociological influence of the telephone to her first dress, all in charming, insightful prose. Schwartz displays a talent for understanding not just language but also the psychological complexities of friendship and family relations. In ""Help,"" she analyzes her guilt about hiring a black housekeeper named Mattie (""She knew better than I, knew in her bones, the palpable boundaries drawn by class and race and money""); in ""Drive, She Said,"" the author examines her fear of her father's driving (""I suspected that if not for my fear I could and would drive as boldly as he did. I yearned to do this and I dreaded it, and I despised myself for my fear""); in ""Being There,"" she recalls her first apartment, on Manhattan's Riverside Drive, lost to fire (""In that apartment we raised two children, and I made myself into a writer instead of dreaming it, and I learned that the getting of wisdom is something other and more fruitful than finding out the right things to do on every occasion""). But one occasionally feels that this eloquent, discerning book is perhaps too well written: one almost longs for a break from Schwartz's consistently thoughtful, self-consciously smart sensibility. After a few chapters, such consistency presents few surprises. Still, New Yorkers who recognize Schwartz's references will surely find pleasure in these engaging essays. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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